Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Making a Wood Carving or Marking Knife with Disposable Blade

Swann Morton scalpel blades have become popular for marking knives. They are a high quality, carbon steel, disposable blade available from the U.K. David Barron, among many others, uses them in his marking knives, epoxied solidly into the handle. The carbon steel blades are easy to sharpen and take a keen edge. I ordered some last fall and have considered several ways of making the blades replaceable.

Swann Morton 01 Scalpel

I started with a scrap of Spanish cedar. Cut a slot through the end deep enough for the blade. Drilled and countersunk a screw hole to retain the blade. Then sketched and cut out the handle shape. Full details are in the build video. My apologies for the lack of pictures but this was spontaneous and slotting, drilling, and sketching the handle blank was a less than a five minute minute job.

The blade is secured with pieces of walnut veneer that fit like splines in the kerf above and below the blade. As seen in the video, I did not adequately glue the veneer or didn't allow enough drying time (probably both), and the spline failed. On the second try I used cyanoacrylate glue which is holding up fine so far. There are stronger ways to secure the blade but I wanted to try this first as it's the easiest. If it fails again I will insert a brass pin above the blade. An alternative is an inner frame of metal with a cut out for the blade, then attached wood scales. I might do that in a future video.

I am not a carver and did not make this knife with carving in mind but wanted to see how well it might work for chip carving. The blade is very thin and sharp, and had no issues slicing through poplar. My skills are obviously non-existent and it would be interesting to have an experienced carver's opinion.

Most prefer single bevel blades for marking knives as you can hold the flat of the blade against a straight edge. These are double bevel blades but by holding them at a slight angle you can achieve the same accuracy.


Blades are available from:
I have no affiliation with either seller.